By Nick Hoobin
The gift manifested itself in outbursts at the most inopportune times. The keyboard, from the lightest of taps, crumbled into pieces after a confrontation with the manager. Then the door flew off its hinges at the conclusion of an already awkward job interview. Whispers of gossip could be heard over the sounds of cash registers and the feeling of anxiety became an engulfing haze. True friends were turned away as the fear of hurting others turned into the fear of leaving the apartment. The downward spiral began and the lowest, most vulnerable point was reached. After all hope was thought lost, with true symbolism, the complex burned and the fear turned into heroism as the child was rescued from a scorched fate. A hero emerged from the fire; a hero destined to do great things, a hero with a backstory that fulfills the expectations of the superhero genre.
What followed was scripted by the collective imagination of comic book connoisseurs. The villains and stakes started small: fires, robberies, kidnappings. An orphan child became the sidekick. Conveniently, more villains appeared after the last one was struck down, each with their own hero, familiar backstory, and tagalong. The super team assembled to counter the rogue’s gallery only to be sidetracked by rising patriotism and the sounds of a quickly escalating war. A war that only ended after the onset of an alien invasion. The genre’s tropes turned to-do list, checked off at a convenient, digestible pace.
What was left was a hero without freedom, a hero weighed down by society’s expectations. Every action, motivation, and story dictated by others, a machine, not a person. A machine driven by the expectation that a hero will always save the day. What was left was a hero with the desire to break free from those expectations. A hero with a new villain: society itself.